Tag Archives: TNC

Neo-Liberalism’s evil freedoms

PolanyiThe Marxist Thinker Karl Polanyi’s conception of ‘good and bad’ freedoms offers a useful starting point for criticising the recent tory cuts.

Below is a lengthy ammended passage from David Harvey’s ‘a brief history of neo-liberalism’. I was going to wait and publish the whole summary once I’d finished it (obviously within copyright limitations!) but I read this on the train this morning and it was just so pertinent I had to upload it asap!

Karl Polanyi in 1944 pointed out that in a complex society the meaning of freedom becomes contradictory. There are, he noted, two types of freedom, one good the other bad. Among the ‘ bad freedoms’ he listed ‘the freedom to exploit ones fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage. Polanyi argues that all of these types of freedom throve under a competitive market (capitalist) economy. However,  this same capitalist system that is responsible for these ‘evil freedoms’ also gives rise to ‘god freedoms’ that most of us cherish – such as Freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom to choose one’s own job. 

According to Polanyi we need greater regulation of the market in order to achieve a greater amount of ‘good freedoms’ for the majority. We need, for example to restrict those types of freedom such as ‘the freedom to make gains from others without giving a commensurable service back to the community’ and this should result. In Polanyi’s own words…

‘The passing of the market economy can become the beginning of an era of unprecedented freedom. Judicial and actual freedom can be made wider and more general than ever before; regulation and control can achieve freedom not only for the few, but for all… Industrial society can afford to be both just and free.’

Unfortunately, Polanyi noted, the passage to such a future is blocked by the ‘moral obstacle’ of liberal utopianism (read ‘neo-liberalism) in which…

‘Planning and control are being attacked as a denial of freedom. Free enterprise and private ownership are declared to be essentials of freedom. No society built on other foundations is said to deserve to be called free. The freedom that regulation creates is denounced as unfreedom; the justice, liberty and welfare it offers are decried as a camouflage of slavery. ‘

The idea of freedom ‘thus degenerates into a mere advocacy of free enterprise. This means a mere pittance of liberty for the people, who may in vain attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the power of the owners of property.’ But if, as is always the case, ‘no society is possible in which power and compulsion are absent, nor a world in which force has no function, then the only way this liberal utopian vision could be sustained is by force, violence and authoritarianism. Liberal or neoliberal utopianism is doomed, in Polanyi’s view, to be frustrated by authoritarianism, or even outright fascism. The good freedoms are lost, the bad ones take over.

text in this blog adapted from this!
text in this blog adapted from this!

Polanyi’s analysis appears particularly relevant today given the following

  1. 1. America has persistently used military force, both covertly and overtly, to install neo-liberal states which protect the property and profit rights of the wealthy while stamping on the rights of the majority to basic public services, freedom of expression and association. Read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, for the evidence.
  2. 2. Many Corporations have profited from natural disasters and war – Halliburton and Blackwater being the most obvious.
  3. 3. You might also want to look up how Goldman Sachs is profiting from dealing in basic food supplies, pushing prices up. Sachs profits, while people in the developing world starve. Will post on this rather complex issue later.

This is a great moral and philosophical tradition from which to argue against the Tory Cuts – by cutting Corporation Tax and encouraging them to use tax havens, the Tories are allowing the elite class to have even more freedom, but by cutting public services and hassling 12 year olds that want to protest, they then limit the freedom of expression of the majority.

The argument we should be making against the Tory cuts is that there is a direct relationship between the elite class having too much of the wrong kind of freedom – these are the freedoms which cause social problems.


The Institutions of Economic Globalisation

The institutions of Economic Globalisation

Economic globalization refers to increasing economic interdependence of national economies across the world through a rapid increase in cross-border movement of goods, services, technology and capital

Most social scientists would point to four ‘institutions’ that oversee international trade and investment, and that attempt to steer the global economy on a path of continued economic growth. It is important for students to understand something about these institutions because all supporters and critics of economic globalisation refer to these institutions (Hyper globalists are the supporters, Marxists and the broader anti-capitalist movement the critics).

You should read this through once when directed and refer back to it when we look at material that either supports or criticises the spread of global capitalism

The four institutions that make up economic globalisation are The World Trade Organisation, The International Monetary Fund and World Bank, The G8 and Transnational Corporations.

1. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) – was founded in 1949, has 149 member states and 149 states are WTO members, constituting over 90% of all world trade with a further 31 in the process of joining.

 The WTO is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. At its heart are the WTO agreements, negotiated and signed by the bulk of the world’s trading nations and ratified in their parliaments. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.” [1]

The WTO functions through a number of meetings involving high- up officials from Nation States often referred to as a trade ‘round’ where they agree on the future terms of trade (for example how much to tax import and exports of goods and services)

2. The International Monetary Fund and The World Bank

 The IMF has 187 members. It monitors the world’s economies, lends to members in economic difficulty, and provides technical assistance ([2]). The IMFs mission is to facilitate international trade, promote high employment, achieve sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. If a country gets into too much debt and can’t pay it off, it is the IMF that lends the country, setting conditions the country must abide by in order to receive that loan.

The World Bank was established in 1944, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has more than 10,000 employees in more than 100 offices worldwide. Like the IMF it has 187 member states  

The World Bank works closely with IMF. It provides low-interest loans to developing countries for a wide array of purposes that include investments in education, health, infrastructure, and natural resource management. ’It says that is mission is to ‘fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors.’ The World Bank is thus the largest single organisation responsible for bringing undeveloped countries whose populations make up at least 2/3rds of the world’s population into the global economy.

The World Bank believes that economic growth through industrialization and free trade are essential for countries to develop. They argue that there are sees the five key factors necessary for economic growth: 

3. The Group of Eight (G-8) is a forum for the leaders of eight of the world’s most industrialized nations, aimed at finding common ground on key topics and solutions to global issues. The G-8 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. While the leaders of these countries are in regular contact, they meet in summit format as the G-8 once a year.[3] ALSO [4]

4.    Transnational Corporations

 Transnational Corporations are some of the largest include Shell, ICI and Microsoft. Since world war two these have expanded massively.

 Held and Mcgrew point out that Transnational Corporations account for more than 25 percent of world production, 80% of world industrial output, approximately 40% of world merchandise trade and 10 percent of world GDP. They also suggest that they have become powerful in determining where in the world production takes place and have played a major role in reordering the productive relationships between nation states[5]

Transnational Corporations have benefited hugely from the trade rules established by the WTO. Ellwood (2000) argues that these are now the driving force behind economic globalisation, wielding more power than many nation states. Today, 51 of the 100 largest economies in the world are run by TNCs rather than Nation States.



[1] http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/whatis_e/whatis_e.htm

[2] http://www.imf.org/external/about.htm

[3] http://g8.gc.ca/about/

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/g8

[5] Held D and Mcgew, A (2007) – Globalisation/ Anti Globalisation: beyond the great divide – Polity.